Champ Car teams on pace with IRL teams?

UPDATE #2 Champ Car employee Scot Elkins, who oversaw the design of the Panoz Champ Car, writes, Dear AutoRacing1.com, As you well know, I rarely speak about rumors and whatnot, but today's posting by D.B. Cooper requires a bit of a reply, and since I only have 39 days as a Champ Car World Series (CCWS) employee left, I thought "what the hell."

I cannot fathom where the urban legend that the DP01 is not a viable oval chassis began? The fact is both the DP01 and the 016 Atlantic chassis incorporated the most recent safety features that all modern monocoque chassis require. There is no "oval spec" vs. "road course spec" in regards to the crash test specifications. It simply does not exist. All modern monocoques are built to the same standard, and that standard is typically the FIA crash testing specifications for F1 and F3. To give complete disclosure, the DP01 was built and crash tested to a combination of IRL, F1, and existing Champ Car test specifications, in order to obtain the safest car relative to the most current established regulations. There are differing opinions as to whether a low or high nose configuration is better or worse for running over crash debris on ovals, but these are only opinions and no data supports either configuration. So anyone that states that the safety levels of the DP01 or the 016 are not suitable for ovals, is making a very uneducated statement.

It is true that the aerodynamic configurations that both the DP01 and 016 currently use, may not be suited for ovals, but only from the standpoint that the cars have too much drag to have the "close" racing and high speeds that is typically expected when racing on an oval. A few changes to items such as the wings and underbodies, would make both cars very competitive in an oval racing environment.

Furthermore, the crash test specifications for the DP01 and 016 were determined by myself, Steve Sewell (Atlantic Technical Director) and the respective engineers at the chassis manufacturers. They were not in any way determined by any of the owners of CCWS.

Please forgive my rant, but the staff at CCWS worked very hard to create these cars to be the safest possible, regardless of the circuit, and I felt that the record needed to be set straight. Sincerely, Scot Elkins, Technical Director, Operations

03/22/08 A reader writes, Dear AutoRacing.com, I am confused. I went to the IndyCar site and there was news on the test at Sebring. But there were only IRL teams testing at Sebring. Have you heard the news? Champ Car filed bankruptcy and is a thing of the past. There is ONLY one top open wheel series in America now and it is called IndyCar and their teams referred to as IndyCar teams. Forget IRL and Champ Car they are of the past. INDYCAR is now and of the future.

As for the test times at Sebring please compare apples to apples. The IRL Dallara was designed specifically for one thing, and one thing only, turning LEFT on ovals. The IRL in its wisdom bent to market forces and adapted the Dallara to run on road and street courses. On the other hand, the Panoz was designed specifically for one thing, and one thing only, road (and street) course racing. Unfortunately, one of the minority owners of OWRS convinced Kalkhoven and company that when they designed the Panoz not to incorporate design and safety features that would make the DP01 a viable oval chassis. Very shortsighted to say the least, but hey at least they were consistent.

As for the transitioning Champ Car teams test times at Sebring again you need to compare apples to apples. That test was held just after the 12 Hours of Sebring and there were two days of ALMS testing and 12 Hours of race rubber on the track. A reasonable ‘guesstimate’ of the lap time improvement due to the different conditions would be about one second a lap. The St. Petersburg race weekend will be a more reliable indicator of where everyone stacks up. No one doubts Newman/Haas/Lanigan will be on the pace pretty quick and with Kalkhoven free of having to write tens of millions in welfare checks each year (some like Walker will be greatly missed, others like Rocketsports won’t be missed at all) indications are KK will now provide a proper budget to KV Racing Technology. With Vasser at the helm of KV Racing Technology and Chip Ganassi Racing mentoring them, KV Racing Technology will also be up to speed quickly. The addition of quality drivers, teams, and owners to IndyCar will add substantially to the show and improve the product. In this instance the sum is truly greater than the individual parts as around half the field this year will be entered by top professional respected teams.

After 12 years of open wheel war that all but destroyed open wheel racing in America, it is time for every fan of the category to bury their personal preferences/agendas and pull together to make this sport what it once was.

Twelve years ago the first race of the year, the last before the split, was the Homestead Grand Prix of Miami on the exact same track that will usher in the dawn of a new era in American Open Wheel Racing next weekend. The 1996 race had drivers with names like Zanardi, Vasser, Tracy, Fittipaldi, Rahal, Gordon, de Ferran, and Unser, Jr. In 1996 Tracy sat on the pole with a lap of 198.590 MPH leading a 26 car field.

Twelve years later fans will watch another 26 car field take the green, (pole last year was 214.322MPH on now a much higher banked Homestead track) with names like Rahal, Andretti, Castroneves, Patrick, Hunter-Reay, Dixon, Wilson, Servia, and Wheldon so it really is ‘Back to the Future’ with a show that is every bit as good as it EVER was. IF the IRL really grasps the fact that fans primarily follow drivers, not a series, car manufacturer, team, etc., (something Champ Car never figured out) and PROMOTE the DRIVERS, this thing can and WILL work.

It is now a series with drivers and teams that deserve our support. As the fan base grows, the spectator count will increase, the TV ratings will go up, Fortune 500 companies and other sponsors will realize the value they can get for investing their marketing dollars in American Open Wheel Racing and the category will once again occupy its rightful place in American Motorsports. D.B. Cooper, Cooperstown, NY

03/21/08 It's hard to tell whether the Champ Car teams are adapting quickly to their new IRL machinery. If the recent test times from Sebring are at all representative, the Champ Car teams won't be too far off the pace – Oriol Servia would have slotted in third quick and Will Power 5th quick. Recently the Champ Cars were turning laps in the 49 sec bracket, 3 full seconds faster than the IRL machinery, meaning around the Sebring track, the Champ Car would lap the IRL car every 18 laps.

Combined Champ Car Transition Team Results

Rank

Car Driver Name Session Time Speed Total Laps
1 5 Servia, Oriol Practice 2 52.7035 114.072 174
2 8 Power, Will Practice 2 52.9451 113.552 130
3 18 Junqueira, Bruno Practice 1 53.2339 112.936 77
4 36 Bernoldi, Enrique Practice 2 53.2843 112.829 76
5 34 Perera, Franck Practice 2 53.3159 112.762 89
6 19 Moraes, Mario Practice 2 53.9831 111.368 84

Combined IRL Regular Driver Results:

Ps. Driver Team Chassis Time Speed
1. Ryan Briscoe Team Penske Honda Dallara 52.4202 113.929 mph
2. Helio Castroneves Team Penske Honda Dallara 52.4531 114.617
3. Tony Kanaan Andretti Green Racing Honda Dallara 52.8609 113.732
4. Hideki Mutoh-R Andretti Green Racing Honda Dallara 52.9513 113.538
5. Dan Wheldon Target Chip Ganassi Honda Dallara 53.0131 113.406
6. Scott Dixon Target Chip Ganassi Honda Dallara 53.0286 113.373
7. Darren Manning A.J. Foyt Racing Honda Dallara 53.0433 113.341
8. Marco Andretti Andretti Green Racing Honda Dallara 53.2452 112.912
9. Vitor Meira Delphi Panther Racing Honda Dallara 53.2467 112.908
10. A.J. Foyt IV Vision Racing Honda Dallara 53.3477 112.695
11. Buddy Rice Dreyer & Reinbold Racing Honda Dallara 53.3859 112.614
12. Ryan Hunter-Reay Rahal Letterman Racing Honda Dallara 53.4570 112.464
13. Danica Patrick Andretti Green Racing Honda Dallara 53.5015 112.371
14. Jay Howard-R Roth Racing Honda Dallara 53.8033 111.740
15. Townsend Bell Dreyer & Reinbold Racing Honda Dallara 54.0505 111.229
16. Ed Carpenter Vision Racing Honda Dallara 54.1869 110.949
17. Marty Roth Roth Racing Honda Dallara 54.4976 110.317
18. Milka Duno Dreyer & Reinbold Racing Honda Dallara 56.4081 106.580

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